Media tribunal: Parliament may have oversight
Charl du Plessis, City Press
Johannesburg - The ANC made its presentation to the Press Freedom Commission on Tuesday, in which it argued that the possibility of Parliament having oversight of a media appeals tribunal shouldn’t be excluded.
The submission was presented to the commission by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, NEC member Jessie Duarte and spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.
Reading from the ANC’s submission, Duarte said the current system of print media self-regulation by the press ombudsman made the media “unaccountable to the public and it is therefore ineffective”.
Duarte said South Africa had to start living in the “real world” and acknowledge that the press ombudsman, which is funded by media companies, could not be responsible for regulating the same companies.
Central to the party’s submission is a call for a parliamentary inquiry to hear submissions from the public and decide whether an independent media appeals mechanism was necessary, and how it would be funded and composed.
Duarte said the party welcomed the Press Freedom Commission’s hearings and would ask it to submit its final report as part of the parliamentary inquiry into the media appeals tribunal.
“The ANC says there is a need for an independent recourse in media space and can Parliament please investigate whether there is a need,” said Mthembu.
He added that there was a possibility “Parliament might even disagree with us [about the establishment of a media appeals tribunal], by the way.”
But former chief justice and current commission chairperson Pius Langa questioned the party about what it envisaged with “oversight” of this body [the appeals tribunal].
Mantashe responded, saying that the possibility of Parliament having oversight of this body should not be excluded.
Langa said that if Parliament had oversight “we are no longer talking about an independent press.
A whole new debate
“It is not a case of being allergic to Parliament but it gives rise to a whole new debate,” said Langa.
Duarte replied that it was “not entirely true” that Parliament cannot be capable of independent oversight”.
She said there were a number of instances in which Parliament had proven it was “very independent” and not dominated by a single party.
“In our view there is no problem with it being Parliament [that has oversight] if that is what Parliament decides.”
The commission began hearing submissions on print media regulation in Johannesburg on Monday and will do so until Wednesday.